The UConn football team will kick off their 2016 season on Thursday night when they host the University of Maine Black Bears at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. With kickoff just days away, here’s an in-depth look at the Black Bears’ program.
The Maine Black Bears play in the Colonial Athletic Association, a Division I FCS conference. Richmond, James Madison and William & Mary are all top 15 FCS teams also within the CAA.
Maine is coming off a disappointing season. In the 23rd and final season for head coach Jack Cosgrove, the Black Bears finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the CAA, which was good enough for a four-way tie for seventh place.
The Black Bears’ 2015 schedule included two teams that the Huskies also played last year. The first was fellow American Athletic Conference member Tulane, who handled the Black Bears with a 38-7 victory. The second mutual opponent was the Villanova Wildcats, another FCS team. Maine fell to Villanova 13-3, while Connecticut beat the two teams 7-3 and 20-15, respectively.
Maine used a two-quarterback system last year with junior Dan Collins and sophomore Drew Belcher. Both appeared in every game but it was Collins who took more than double the amount of snaps than Belcher. The Black Bears also have an impressive run game headlined by Bridgeport, Connecticut native Nigel Beckford. The sophomore averaged 60 yards on the ground through nine games. The two leading receivers on the Black Bears are Micah Wright, who averaged 75 yards per game, and Jordan Dunn, who averaged 54 yards.
In general, the Maine Black Bears aren’t much of a threat on offense; they averaged 15 points per game last season compared to the average of 22 points per game their opponents scored. They defend the pass better than they defend the run, giving up 18 rushing touchdowns last season to just 12 passing touchdowns.
The UConn Huskies are just one of two FBS teams on the schedule for Maine this year, with their other FBS matchup against Toledo coming next week.